Unions suffer from the same drawbacks from which all institutions suffer. The two most notable of these in my mind are a) they too often stray from their ideals and b) the people who should not have power are more often than not the very same people who seek it. But these problems are, as I said, not unique to unions but are common to all institutions. What I find amazing is that despite the fact most of the rights and privileges which we enjoy from universal suffrage to universal health-care to public pensions are a direct results of unions or union activists, people still spend an inordinate amount of energy attacking unions. Huge, multi-national corporations rape and pillage the environment, undermine democracy and destroy many of our basic rights but people reserve more vitriol and anger for unions than for almost any institution. This just demonstrates that the rightwing has been remarkably successful at doing their job of making it a better world for corporations and a worse one for average people.
In recent days people have begun to discuss the issue of the union role in the NDP. It is inevitably that this subject would rise to the top in a country so dominated by rightwing media. Any method available to discredit the left will be at the top of the media agenda. What is particularly interesting about this issue as presented in the media and by many bloggers is the way they attempt to indignantly chastise anyone who is not actively pursuing the so-called principle of "one person, one vote." What makes this so ironic is that so many rightwingers, as well as Liberals who have so actively pursued a corporate agenda, don't believe in democracy at all. Oh, they will of course pay active lip service to the principles of democracy, but their support will always fall short when it comes to democracy in the economy or democracy in the workplace. Their basic model of society is the corporation - a fundamentally undemocratic institution which has, for generations made every attempt to undermine rights, privileges and protections for the majority of workers. The rightwing in fact prides itself in many instances on its relations with corporate history, and it does everything it can to discredit democracy and alienate people from the process, but when it comes to a left-wing political party suddenly the rightwing is all for the principles of democracy. Another funny thing is that people often condemn leftwing parties by admitting that the rich and corporations have a great deal of de facto power in rightwing parties but suggest that this is equivalent to union power on the left. The irony of this that no one talks about is the fact that unions are non-profit, democratic organizations the primary purpose of which is to protect people's rights.
There is a direct relationship between the gradual decline in union membership in Western countries and the stagnation of wages and the incredible increases in wealth of society's richest members. In other words, it is empirically demonstrable that as unions die out so does equality, people's wealth, social justice, and . . . yes, democracy. Attacking union influence in a party like the NDP is an easy target. This is because Liberals and the rightwing have convinced people that somehow if we all abide by the principle of 'one person, one vote,' we will actually have democracy. But this is, of course, complete hogwash. We live in a society in which the institutions of the rich have de facto controlled what people think, what they believe is possible, and what they believe is right. The rightwing and the corporations have remarkable institutional power in this society in the legal institutions, the media, and the political system. One person one vote is entirely meaningless in a system in which is already weighted in favor of the rich. The proof of this is that one would have to be hopelessly blind to not see that our democracy is slowly being robbed of meaning and shriveling on the vine of principle. The fact is that you can take away the influence of unions in the NDP or not, as you please; it makes little difference really. You have already been robbed of your democracy and you are slowly being robbed of your wealth and your rights anyway. Every year fewer people vote for the simple reason that the agenda is preset anyway. While the World Bank, for example, promoted so-called "good governance" in the 'third-world" they simultaneously told those countries what policies that "had" to follow. Meanwhile, in the West real wages have stagnated for a generation while the wealth of the richest has exponentially increased. As good, fulltime jobs disappear, and this country begins to look more and more like a banana republic, any rational, principled person must surely conclude that democracy is a failure. Those with the money are calling the tune regardless of what people think they can do with their civic activism.
One person one vote? Sure, why not. It makes no difference in a society in which democracy means so little anyway.